Encouraged by seeing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan’s TV show, the mid-’60s cover band The Mods formed out of the projects of Mattapan and the suburb of Milton. Consisting of singer Van Leister, Paul Narotski on bass, Jack Peterson and Chuck Norton on guitars, and Harry Sandler on drums –- and originally called the Evergreens –- they settled into a basement to learn about 15 three-chord songs, including “Louie Louie” and “Twist & Shout.” Sandler remembers that at an early gig, a dance at a high school in South Boston, “the girls were throwing themselves at us.” Soon they were playing most weekends on the CYO circuit, later at the South Shore venues the Rexicana Ballroom in Marshfield and Avon Town Hall, eventually becoming the house band at the Cotillion Ballroom in Taunton for teen mixers and hops.
Norton wrote two songs, which the band recorded, but they stuck with playing the hits of the day, and ended up being able to choose from about 50 of them. They became local stars when they started playing the Surf in Nantasket, and briefly hit the big time when their prize for winning a battle of the bands was to open for the Rolling Stones at their infamous 1966 gig at the Manning Bowl in Lynn. The next year, the band made their only Boston Garden appearance, opening for the Dave Clark Five.
They lasted two and a half years. Leister left to start a family, then Sandler left to join Orpheus. In 2004 they reunited for a “Live at the Surf” concert at the Regent Theatre in Arlington. After Norton died, they got together again for a few shows with new guitarist Bobby Matulina (who was in the band the Miltones with Norton in the ’60s). The Mods’ final show was at a birthday party in January, 2009.
(by Ed Symkus)